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LIVE REVIEW: Benee @ Fortitude Music Hall

Photography: Tom Vu

Walking into the Fortitude Valley Music Hall, the blue ambient lights that glittered over the stage under the fortitude chandelier was, evidently, the calm before the storm. While I was desperately craving a White Claw (of which the bar had none, or I’m blind), I watched as more people filtered in, filling the gaps between each other and inching closer to the stage where they could. I, of course, was a part of those trying to get a good look at where our show would be tonight. It seemed minimalistic, but I would later realise that having so little on stage would have a big impact on the incredible light show to come.

As anyone who has ever been to a gig before, the moment that the music starts fading mid song is the moment that you know you’re meant to buckle up for a sick session of jamming with the artist on stage.

I knew I was in for a hectic ride the moment Muroki came on stage with his luscious dreds and bright neon red guitar. He gripped the mic and called out to us, “Brisbane, how you feeling!?” The roar that followed was only a taste of the sound to come.

With song one, Muroki immediately introduced us to his reggae tracks with ‘Rehurehu (Wavy)’ that had the audience bopping along with each beat. Amidst funky keyboard and mellow bass was a neon pink guitar solo that had everyone entranced. The audience could tell that Muroki had full control of the stage, and with a signature smile that meant he knew it too, he announced, “make some noise if you wanna dance tonight!” yet another fruitful roar from the crowd followed.

He most certainly delivered with his next song, ‘Surfin’, a track reminiscent of driving along the beachfront of Surfer’s Paradise – without the stress of desperately trying to find a car park. Hands were floating through the air like waves, the melodious clapping was the waves crashing – I almost forgot that I was in the Valley.

Slowly, the waves settled, and Muroki introduced us to a smooth, mellow track laced with somber reggae and sweet snares. “Anyone feeling a little moody? This song goes out to anyone who has lost a lover.”

The crowd was once again a whole, swaying with the melodious sounds that reverberated around the hall. Muroki’s vocals were powerful, yet gentle. It was immediately obvious why he was signed by Olive.

As the stage was accentuated with black and gold lights, Muroki gave us his signature wide smile, “this is a cover of a song by Sam Sparro.”

My heart jumped in my chest. I knew the song immediately by the first few bass chords – it was a song often played in the car on the early morning drives to school. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce my mother’s favourite song, ‘Black and Gold’. The melancholy song was accentuated by the smooth back beats, and the boys absolutely shredding it on the electric guitar.

We were lost in Muroki’s world of music. Both unreleased and older tracks merged with one another as we were cast under the spell of Muroki, as well as his band. Shout out to

Joel on the keys, Jacob on the bass and Ezra on the drums. You guys killed it! Especially considering this was only the second show they had done in Australia. Kudos!

As the set was rounding down, I’m sure that Muroki could sense that we were all desperate for more, and he allowed us one more song. A new single only released last week. ‘Find Me’.

It was almost if they had started the show all over again. The energy was electric around the room as Muroki sang ‘come on and dance / I know you can’. ‘Find Me’ was a step a little further away from his regular reggae, yet still hidden in the electric licks of the bass guitar were those notes that keep us feeling that reggae vibe. We were all cheering on as Joel gave us the sickest keyboard solo, bopping along as he pressed each key expertly. It was an opening fit for Benee – a reggae-pop entre to the indie-pop main course.

The moment Benee’s name shone on the projector the room went wild. The crowd began chanting her name. From outside, I’m sure anyone grabbing a frozen coke from the Maccas next door would know who was playing in the hall.

It was 8:30. The echo of speakers playing ‘Make You Sick’ was bouncing around the walls, and the crowd pushed forward towards the stage in hopes of seeing Benee’s grand entrance. As the song faded out, the band made their way on stage.

The frequency of the bass reverberated around the room. I could feel it in my knees, the tone buzzing through my feet. As the lights flicked from black to white, the room knew she was about to make her grand entrance.

Bouncing out onto the stage like she had been skulling energy drinks comes Benee, wearing a cat print shirt (that she later said was a gift, in case anyone was wanting to cop their own), and a matching bedazzled cap and microphone as she starts singing ‘Tough Guy’ and jiving along on the stage. It was a symphony – a buttery electric guitar laced with her sharp vocals and a touch of synth. It was definitely the Benee we had all been waiting for. Behind her was an illusion of trippy graphics – mostly ones which could be found paired with lyric videos.

Song number two came in tow, dropping down the energy to move into ‘Happen To Me’ – the snare focus on the drums, her hands clutching the microphone closely. It was a pure example of her showmanship – being able to switch from one vibe to another seamlessly.

"I always wondered what would happen if I said the wrong place at a show, but what's up Brisbane!” . The scream that followed made me feel a tad sorry for the Maccas workers next door that might worry there was a massacre in the other room.

As she spoke with the front row during a drink break, she was offered a gift from an audience member – a tiara and a tote. “I’m gonna put this on Tiare,” she said as she placed the tiara on the bass player, “she looks beautiful!”

“Okay, let’s do another song,” was her charming introduction to ‘Same Effect’.

Somehow, between the ending of ‘Same Effect’, being gifted a shirt by the audience and being on Triple J’s Live at the Wireless, we got pulled into ‘Find An Island’. Arms swayed like palm trees, and the popularity of the song became clear as the voices increased tenfold.

“Wanna meet my band? Wanna meet my baaaand?”

Benee gave a prompt shout out to Tiare Kelly on guitar, Felix Holton on the drums and Dylan Clark on the bass. Yet again, props to the gang for the show. The music slapped!

Benee had no problems sharing tidbits of her life between the songs. One most memorably was right after ‘Hurt You, Gus’, when she took a moment to rehydrate and dab off some of the developing sweat (considering how she was grooving on stage, I’m surprised she didn’t need to do this more often. I mean, I was just in the audience, and I was concerned the person next to me was going to think I was a bit grotty). “I've actually got a really big pimple underneath this cap. I put on a pimple patch, but I’m worried it’s going to melt off.”

‘If I Get to Meet You’ played next – the melancholy daydream track that had us all hypnotised. Yet moments later, we were set back alight as the buttery electric guitar intro of ‘Soaked’ echoed around the hall.

Moments later, Benee’s bedazzled cap was replaced with a shiny, feathery cowboy hat she had been gifted from the crowd. With a new hat and a skip in her stride, ‘Doesn’t Matter’ began as she strode across the stage like a peacock that found out how to fluff its feathers.

I could only hear fragments of what she was saying to the front row, but if I had my White Claw, I probably would have lost most of it as I laughed at her next words, "You popped your pussy making that for me? I fucking love you for that.”

‘Winter’ faded into an unheard track – one even the diehard fans wouldn’t know yet. We were privy to a taste of an unreleased song she might call ‘Morning Routine’. “I was thinking of calling it ‘Friday’,” she shared “but, you know, copyright might be an issue.” Honestly, I don’t think Rebecca Black would mind too much.

The eerie ‘In The Night Garden’ was paired with an extra few puffs of the smoke machine, and dark, moody lighting that set a somber scene that the music portrayed.

“Um? What's next?” was the hearty opening for ‘Marry Myself’. Later, when she asked the audience if anyone had been engaged, and someone said yes, showing the proof on their ring finger, she squealed, “you got a nice sparkly rangggg!”

‘Kool’ was the unabashed synth-pop beat no one could stop themselves from dancing to. With thrashes of the electric guitar and a steady heart-beat drum backing, we all had to move our feet to keep up the energy that was channeling through Benee to us.

Thankfully, it wasn’t just me who got confused as the rest of the band members left the stage. Upon noticing, Benee exclaimed, “Oh shit, I'm doing this one by myself.” Once we reached the chorus of ‘Soft Side’, Benee was joined by the band mates once again, as well as Muroki and his crew – though only as her back up dancers as they bounced around to every beat.

There was never a dull moment between tracks. After ‘Beach Boy’, she announced that though she was being heckled to do the ‘stanky leg’, she had tried, and failed, many times. ‘Snail’ was followed by a laugh, “y'all making me do crazy things tonight. Gonna twerk on stage?”

Personally, I was a little disappointed that ‘Glitter’ didn’t bring an actual rain of glitter, but I think that my washing machine would have definitely complained if it did.

A spacy interlude followed, pleasantly described by Benee as “some spacy shit, aye” as she vibed along on stage, reveling in the smoke machine as ‘Never Ending’ started, screaming, “get the smoke, bitch!”

Then came the moment we had all been waiting for. We’ve all heard it on the radio, we’ve all (well, maybe not all) seen the TikToks. Anyone, even as far away as Queen Street, could all hear us singing along to ‘Supalonely’ – especially as we all screamed in unison, ‘I’m a lonely bitch!’

From the start of ‘Tough Guy’, to the end of ‘Sheesh’, Benee took absolute authority over the stage. Her confidence as she bounded around as if she were on clouds proved her showmanship was not limited to her impressive vocals.

To end her set, she screamed, rather violently, ‘thank you!’. For anyone who missed it, they were recording with Triple J for Live at the Wireless. Definitely check it out there!

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